A lot of local governments aren’t choosing to digitize records just to increase access. They’re doing so because they are running out of room for their physical records. For some records, especially high-volume, short-retention-period records, creating electronic images and destroying the originals is the easiest solution.
Imaging public records and destroying the physical copies is not a simple process, though. Public records are still public records, which means that they must be provided to a member of the public on request. If a member of the public cannot access one of your records because the only copy of it has become corrupted, or because it is in an obsolete file format, you could be held accountable for that loss.
Consequently, the Government Records Branch has developed a self-warranty system to ensure that electronic records in local governments are being managed in the best way possible. In addition to requiring that you follow best practices in your management of electronic records; including thorough documentation, back-ups, and audits; we also require that you establish an Electronic Records/Imaging Policy. Once these steps are complete and your documents are imaged, then all you need to do is fill out a form requesting permission to destroy the original, physical versions. The Local Records Unit will usually grant you permission, as long as the series’ disposition is not, “Retain in office permanently.”
If you are a local government office, and you are interested in using digitization as a space-saving measure, please contact one of the members of our Local Records Unit. We will provide you with the necessary forms, as well as some sample Electronic Records/Imaging Policies. In addition, take a look at our Digital Imaging Systems Guidelines to learn more about the current best practices in digitizing your files.